The San Rafael City Council unanimously approved a $82.4 million 2011-2012 budget at Tuesday night’s meeting that filled an estimated $4.4 million budget deficit and increased emergency reserves.
“This is a significant achievement for the city,” Interim Finance Director Janet Pendoley said. “It is a measure of financial security that is very important in such a difficult economic time.”
Approximately two thirds of city’s budget is from the General Fund, which accounts for police, fire prevention, library, parks, traffic enforcement and other services. By the end of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the General Fund could increase by $500,000, bringing reserves from 2.6 percent to 3.4 percent, according to Pendoley.
"It's a very small step, but it's a positive step toward the council's goal of 10 percent reserves," she said.
City Manager Nancy Mackle intends to split $45,000 of the reserves between the police, fire and public works departments in order to protect against wild land fires.
To offset the projected deficit, Pendoley and city officials reorganized and eliminated vacant staff positions, laid off a supervising parking enforcement officer and a parking maintenance and collections employee and reduced overtime for the police department.
Their report also used several one-time savings, including $1 million in pension reserves and $60,000 in public library funds for materials.
Staff are currently negotiating a 4 percent salary decrease for all city employees.
San Rafael has been dealing with large scale budget deficits since 2008. Although no there were police staff reductions included in this year’s budget, the San Rafael Police Department’s number of authorized positions went from 104 to 87 in the past four years.
“Gang violence is very real... and gang members are presently very active on Lincoln Avenue and lower Fourth Street,” said Brian Slattery, who warned council members of the need for quick response times when it comes to public safety.
“We’re doing everything we can to enjoy the same level of public service we do in our city,” Mayor Al Boro said.
Since Gov. Jerry Brown did not sign the state budget before the City Council meeting, Pendoley said it is likely that there will be revisions come this fall.
Updates from Sacramento could show “a loss of some safety funding and a possibility of funding for literacy and childcare programs,” she said.